Thoughts on swing dancing and Lindy Hop, one word at a time…

Those “So-Cal” Dancers

I remember awhile back I was writing one of Bobby White’s posts on Swungover titled “The Old Timer (Part 2: A Release of Energy)” and got a smirk on my face reading this quote,

I think it’s one reason why so many So-Cal dancers handle competitions well–the one-upness attitude and showing-off confidence has been an important part of their scene ever since the neo-swing craze and before.

I’ll fully admit, as a So-Cal dancer myself I am proud to the point of vanity about my local scene. You can dance every night of the week, we have an amazing hometown band: Jonathan Stout and His Campus Five, and a plethora of badass dancers.

The 90’s

If you aren’t familar with the neo-swing craze/swing revival, go read this wikipedia article.  Then watch this clip from the film Swingers (1996):

Two reasons its important:

  1. It features The Derby, a legendary venue of Southern California.
  2. It presents the idea that swing dancing could be for anybody.

Erin Stevens, wrote in an interview from the now defunct website laswinginfo.com,

The Derby certainly deserves credit for getting the word out to the general masses. The GAP Commercial and the movie Swing Kids certainly had an effect [on the popularity of swing].

[…] There were so many people who wanted to swing dance that it was almost out of control. That was when we realized that we needed to be careful what we wished for. All of a sudden, we went from having 100 people in a class to having 400 people in a class. We soon had a different problem. We had to police our classes more, and make sure we could see the back of the room, all while still trying to get the material out there. We couldn’t teach everything we wanted, because much of the class became about just trying to move the people around.”

A quote from Peter Loggins on an article about Collegiate Shag has a few interesting things to note,

In the late 1990’s we had Shag Contest all around Southern California which was real fun, but it didn’t seem to last long, as most dancers were interested more in Lindy Hop, Swing, Charleston and Balboa.However, there were those countless nights in the back room of the Derby in Hollywood of all of us Shag dancers going off and Jamming! Imagine that on a regular night out….those were the days!

So before I lose you, here are the key points from the revival.

  • 1. Public media through movies (The Mask, Swingers, Swing Kids) and the Gap commercial made swing dance something accessible to the general public.
  • 2. Southern California during the 90’s swing dance had an overwhelming popularity, to the point that classes were full, competitions became very frequent, and venues like the Derby became avenues to learn and show off.

L.A. Old School

So below I am going to post these videos ranging from promotional clips, social dancing to competitions that I think show off this So-Cal flair from its 1998-2002 days. I’ll let you be the judge if we have this “one-upness attitude and showing-off confidence”.

The Hollywood Jitterbugs 1998

Santa Monica Mall Contest 1999

Swing Pit Opening Night 2001

Link: http://www.myspace.com/video/vid/18650186

The LA/OC Lindy Exchange  2001

Apparently we had some out of towners for this event.

Just as an FYI, So Cal also had some of the best advertisement campaigns ever:

We are just better at hiding it these days.

Lindy Binge 2001: House Party

Jam at Camp Hollywood 2002

Jam at Paladino’s 2002

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3 responses

  1. Lacey

    I like how you still consider yourself a So-Cal dancer.
    I want to visit more scenes to see the differences; my whole experience has been within the So-Cal scene… with the possible exception of the San Luis Obispo Lindy Exchange last year wherein I noticed a slight difference between the So-Cal dancers I recognized and the locals or visitors from other areas who I did not.

    March 3, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    • Well when most people ask me I refer to myself as a “Bi-Coastal” dancer.

      Its funny for as much as I organize out here in Central Pennsylvania, I always see So-Cal as my home scene. Lacey your experience though isn’t unusual for the So-Cal area, a ton of dancers out there do not know about the experience of dancing outside the OC/LA bubble. In comparison to most of the East Coast where travel is almost a necessity if you want to become a decent or better dancer.

      March 4, 2011 at 8:36 am

      • Yehhh I know. Am typical untraveled So-Cal dancer.
        But I r in skool and haz not moneys, so I have an excuse.

        March 5, 2011 at 2:20 am

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